The Old Hrodna Castle (also known as the Hrodna Upper Castle and Bathory's Castle) dates from the 11th century as the seat of a dynasty of Black Ruthenian rulers, descended from a younger son of Yaroslav the Wise of Kiev. The 13th-century keep of the castle belonged to a type of Belarusian defensive tower represented by the Tower of Kamyanyets. Vytautas the Great added five Brick Gothic towers in 1391-98, transforming the castle into one of his main residences. Casimir IV Jagiellon also favoured Hrodna over Lithuania's official capital. It was there that the Polish Crown was offered to him, and it was there that he died in 1495.
The next notable tenant of the castle was Stephen Báthory who envisaged Hrodna as the capital of his vast empire in Eastern Europe. He engaged Scotto of Parma to replace the Vytautas Castle with his own residence in the advanced Renaissance taste of Northern Italy. After Bathory's death in Hrodna in 1586, his pet project was abandoned. The citadel was devastated by the Russians during a Russo-Polish War in 1655.
The castle's revival was owing to Krzysztof Zygmunt Pac who raised sufficient funds to finance the refurbishing of the royal residence. The restored castle was selected by King Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki of Poland as the location for every third Sejm of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The castle suffered extensive damage during the Great Northern War, forcing the royal court to move into the New Hrodna Castle.
After the partitions of Poland the castle was given over to the Russian army and housed a barracks. The authorities of interwar Poland restored the chamber of the ambassadors and the Sejm Hall. In 1925, the former royal palace opened on historical and archaeological museum. At present the castle is located the main exhibition of Grodno Museum of History and Archeology.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.